JULY 15, 2008

The Lake County Value Adjustment Board met in regular session on Tuesday, July 15, 2008, at 8:30 a.m., in the Board of County Commissioners’ Meeting Room, Lake County Administration Building, Tavares, Florida.  Commissioners present at the meeting were: Jennifer Hill, Vice-Chairman; Debbie Stivender, and Linda Stewart.  Mr. Larry Metz was present from the School Board. Others present were: Sanford A. “Sandy” Minkoff, County Attorney; Wendy Taylor, Executive Office Manager, Board of County Commissioners’ Office; Frank Royce, Chief Deputy, Property Appraiser’s Office; Robbie Ross, Tangible Personal Property Director, Property Appraiser’s Office; and Ellie McDonald, Deputy Clerk.

Commr. Hill called the meeting to order at 8:33 a.m. and stated that the discussion today would be attorney representation for the VAB which changed this year by State Statute.  She then turned the time over to Mr. Sandy Minkoff, County Attorney, who updated the Value Adjustment Board (VAB) on the new procedures.


Mr. Minkoff reported that on the last day of their Session, the Legislature passed a Bill that dramatically affected how the VABs in the State were going to work.  He reported that one item in the Bill was the prohibition of County Attorneys to serve as counsel for the VAB.  The initial opinion from the Department of Revenue (DOR) was that they prohibited lawyers who represent any government anywhere in the State from being an attorney for a VAB anywhere else in the State.  He remarked that after September 1, 2008, the VAB cannot meet without a lawyer present, and as a result an attorney needs to be hired prior to September 1, 2008.  He requested authorization to set in motion advertising for an attorney for the VAB.  He mentioned that there would be other changes forthcoming next year that would require the VAB to be comprised of two (2) citizen members, and rather than three (3) County Commissioners and two (2) School Board members, there would be two (2) County Commissioners and one (1) School Board member.  He explained that training would be required for VAB members and Special Masters and stated that he was not sure Special Masters could be hired at this time as it was uncertain what the DOR was doing in terms of their training.  He commented that they have a rule workshop later this month in Ft. Lauderdale and perhaps when that is complete they would have a little more knowledge as to how they think it should work.  He remarked that at the very minimum, the attorney needs to be hired and suggested advertising for the position and then meet in August to bring back the applicants for selection.  He explained that if necessary, the applicant interviews could be scheduled after that meeting.

Commr. Hill questioned whether Mr. Minkoff was able to facilitate that process.

Mr. Minkoff replied that he could represent the VAB until September 1, 2008, but not beyond.

On a motion by Commr. Stivender, seconded by Commr. Stewart the VAB requested that Mr. Minkoff, as County Attorney, bring back proposals for an attorney to represent the VAB.

Under discussion, Commr. Stewart asked if the RFP’s would be sent out Statewide.

Mr. Minkoff explained that when attorneys were hired they tried to notify every lawyer in Lake County by sending it to the Bar, and because of this issue they would probably prepare a notice in the Sentinel.  He commented that if the VAB would like it sent Statewide, he could try to get it into the Florida Bar News, but was not sure there was enough time to do that, nor whether the VAB would like to sit through numerous applicants.  He remarked that normally they would try to hire someone from Lake County and would place an ad in the Sentinel to broaden the field.  He explained that this new process of hiring an outside attorney could possibly double or triple last year’s VAB expenses of approximately $10,000 - $20,000 according to how many petitions were filed, and noted that the County and the School Board share the costs of the VAB with sixty percent (60%) being budgeted by the Board of County Commissioners and forty percent (40%) by the School Board.  He stated that they anticipate receiving petitions from people who want to decrease their assessments and others from those wishing to increase their assessments because of Save Our Homes.

Commr. Hill asked for a vote on the motion which carried unanimously by a 4-0 vote.


Mr. Minkoff stated that last year’s VAB denied an exemption and a Valuation Appeal to Dr. Benedict Mohit and the Property Appraiser recommended against it, the VAB approved their recommendation, and Dr. Mohit has now sued the Property Appraiser.  He reported that the Property Appraiser had asked the County Attorney’s office to provide a defense to this suit and he found no ethical problem with doing so since the VAB and the Property Appraiser agreed on the decision.  He stated that he could defend them at no cost and asked for a consensus of the VAB as to whether they were comfortable having him represent them in this lawsuit.

It was the consensus of the VAB that Mr. Minkoff could represent the Property Appraiser’s office in the lawsuit with Dr. Mohit.

Mr. Minkoff stated that Mr. Kevin McDonald, Budget Officer from the Clerk’s Office, would be their liaison to communicate with the School Board and the Commissioners regarding future appointees on the VAB.  He explained that he would keep Mr. McDonald abreast of the attorney search.

Commr. Hill asked if they needed to send out a notice that citizens would be appointed to this Board or wait until the attorney was hired.

Mr. Minkoff commented that he felt Mr. McDonald could send the parameters to the VAB since the School Board would appoint a business person and the County Commission would appoint a homeowner with a homestead, keeping in mind that the meeting would occur sometime in September.  He explained that the VAB would need to review the applicants for the attorney sometime in August.  He stated that Mr. Frank Royce had mentioned that they may have some totally different Save Our Homes petitions from other counties which would come before the VAB in August.  He stated that he thought the VAB process would run this year until June, July or August of next year before it would be complete.


Commr. Stewart asked why there would be Save Our Home petitions from other counties.

Mr. Royce responded by stating that it had to do with people who lived in Lake County who wanted portability in another county.  He explained that people who moved to Orange County and were denied their portability for whatever reason, or if Orange County questioned why Lake County reported that the property owner did not have any Save Our Homes to take with them, and if the property owner disagreed with that, then the property owner could petition to the Orange County VAB.  He stated that the Orange County VAB would then have to send a form to Lake County’s VAB and if Lake County’s VAB agreed with the Property Appraiser that the property owner did not have any Save Our Homes to take with them, Lake County’s VAB would complete their own form and send it back to the Orange County VAB who would rehear the petition and make their decision.


Mr. Minkoff stated that the VAB would meet again in August on a Tuesday morning for 20-30 minutes.


            There being no further business to be brought to the attention of the VAB, the meeting adjourned at 8:45 a.m.